Issues of land and the environment strike at the heart of the fundamental problems facing the Philippines today. The Philippines is a is a semi-feudal, semi-colonial country of which over 75% of the population is comprised of poor, landless peasants and the main mode of production is an agricultural industry run by an handful of power-hungry, exploitative, fascistic, and corrupt landlord families with state power. Big landlords—including the Cojuangco family of current president Simeon Benigno Aquino III–wield and maintain control over vast tracks of Filipino territory and unleash state-sponsored repressive violence to suppress the democratic rights of the exploited peasants and farm workers. Among all sectors of Philippine society, the largest number of human rights violations are committed against peasants who are fighting for their basic right to survive, which includes the principal demand of genuine land reform so that they can make a decent, dignified living from the land that they till.
At the same time, the Aquino government has further liberalized the Philippine economy to accommodate increased foreign multinational mining and quarrying operations that violate Philippine territorial integrity, turning over vast amounts of land to foreign corporations for the most environmentally devastating extractive industries. In the interest of safeguarding their mega-profits, the corporations and Philippine government unleash private armies and the Armed Forces to terrorize and repress peasant, farming, and indigenous communities resisting the development aggression. Some of the most heavily militarized regions in the Philippines are in Mindanao and the Cordilleras, where active mining operations and prospecting exist. These mining and quarrying operations have also led to the flooding disasters that devastate poor rural communities killing thousands yearly during typhoon season, as exemplified with Typhoons Ondoy, Sendong and Pablo. The greenhouse gases produced from these deforestation operations also contribute to the dangerous altering of global weather patterns or global warming that cause said typhoons and tropical storms.
The Aquino government also allows the U.S. military’s ships and personnel to operate with virtually no restrictions throughout the islands. The U.S. military dumped toxic waste for decades in the areas surrounding the former U.S. bases without cleaning it up. Under the protection of the Visiting Forces Agreement, they continue to dump toxic waste from naval vessels, bring nuclear materiel into Philippine territory, and have even destroyed Tubbataha Reef, a protected world heritage site, without any accountability.
To provide support to the peasants, farming communities and indigenous peoples in the Philippines fighting for land reform and against development aggression, BAYAN-USA established the Rural and Environmental Desk. The desk:
- + disseminates information and activates supporters to get involved in the campaigns and actions of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Kalikasan and other affiliated organizations in the Philippines.
- + is building a network of supporters in the U.S. for rural and environmental campaigns in the Philippines.
- + disseminates primers and other educational materials on rural and environmental issues in the Philippines.
- + disseminates info on rural and environmental concerns in other parts of the world.
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